Sunday, August 14, 2011

Science stories of October 1935,
Part 2: The 100-inch telescope

Here's the second in a series of three science-related clippings from the late-October 1935 issues of the St. Paul (Minn.) Dispatch. (Part 1 is here.)

The article, datelined New Haven, Connecticut, states:
Space of a depth almost inconceivable ten years ago is definitely conquered in accurate geographical charts made with aid of the 100-inch telescope.

A space ship, using charts described at Yale University by Dr. Edwin Hubble of Mt. Wilson observatory, could set out to travel 240 million light years straight away from earth with reasonable assurance.

The fliers would reach clusters of nebulae 240 million light years away -- the distance it takes light 240 million years to travel.

"The distance," Dr. Hubble said, "is known with an uncertainty of less than 30 per cent and probably less than 15 per cent."

This is the greatest distance yet charted. Arriving, the traveler would probably find the nebulae to be clusters of stars like those of our own heavens, averaging about 85 million suns apiece.
The "100-inch telescope" referred to in the article is the famous Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson, which was the largest telescope in the world from 1917 until 1948. According to Wikipedia:
In 1935 the silver coating used since 1917 on the Hooker 100-inch mirror was replaced with a more modern and longer lasting aluminum metallic coating that reflected 50% more light than the older silver method of coating. ... Edwin Hubble performed his critical calculations from work on [this] telescope. He determined that some nebulae were actually galaxies outside our own Milky Way.
Hubble, of course, is the namesake for the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990 and has spent two decades taking pictures of the cosmos that Hubble himself could only have dreamed of.

Here is just one image from the amazing gallery of Hubble pictures.

The Majestic Sombrero Galaxy (M104)

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